“I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat pig’s flesh, and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels; who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.’ These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day.” (Isaiah 65:2-5)
Isaiah prophesied that judgment would fall on God’s people. The reason is that many of them, although they claimed to be called the Lord’s chosen ones, had deserted Him, worshipped false gods and exalted themselves. Isaiah described their sinfulness in part as idolatrous practices, secret rituals conducted while sitting in tombs as well as eating pig’s flesh. These practices indicate deliberate and shameless disregard of God’s law.
It is rather curious that both of these elements are present in the gospel reading from Luke 8:26-39. The demon-possessed man lived among the tombs. The legion of demons who possessed Him went into a herd of pigs when Jesus cast them out. These are both elements of appalling uncleanness, the opposite of holiness. Uncleanness such as this is a result of sin and the punishment for it as well. Sin enslaves those who embrace it. Those who live in sin become as unclean and imprisoned as that demon-possessed man. Those who are unclean are excluded from dwelling with God. This was the reason why God punished His people with the loss of their nation and exile in a land of unclean people and practices, Babylon.
Isaiah tells us that the coming Kingdom of God will exclude idolaters but is opened for those who have faith, not just from among the Jews but the Gentiles as well, the rest of the peoples of the world. Together they will enjoy the peace of God’s kingdom which is the new creation, uncorrupted and pure like the Garden of Eden once was. We believers today must avoid embracing or applauding unclean practices lest we dishonor God and fall into judgment ourselves. Jesus enables us to avoid sin despite the pressures of the world, the flesh and the devil. Only faith in Him can free us from the misery of the bondage to sin.